WORKERS COMP, UNEXPLAINED VS. IDIOPATHIC FALLS: AK STEEL CORP. V. ADKINS (COA 6/22/2007)

AK STEEL CORP. V. ADKINS
WORKERS COMP:  Unexplained falls and work-related injuries
2007-CA-000046
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING
PANEL: VANMETER PRESIDING;  THOMPSON, PAISLEY CONCUR
DATE RENDERED: 6/22/2007

This case addresses the difference between an ”unexplained fall” and an “idiopathic fall”. The difference is important in workers’ comp because injuries which arise from an unexplained fall at work are work-related while those caused by an idiopathic fall are not. The employee was unloading coal cars and fell over backwards injuring her shoulder. She did not testify that she tripped or slipped, but she guessed that she lost her balance, although she did not know. She also testified that she previously sought treatment for feeling off balance. However, she did not testify that she lost consciousness. The Administrative Law Judge ruled that this was an unexplained fall, and applied a presumption of work-relatedness in unexplained falls established by the Courts in Coomes v. Robinson Lumber, 427 SW2d 809 (Ky. 1968). The employer appealed arguing that the Courts could not create such a presumption where the legislature has not done so. The Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed, as did the Court of Appeals. The Court cited to Larson’s Workers’ Compensation in reasoning that, but for the employment and being on the job, the worker would not have been injured. Whereas, if the proof is that a medical condition such as a seizure or blackout condition caused the fall, then it is personal to the claimant and not related to the work, therefore, not a compensable injury.

By Peter Naake 

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